‘The weather, the people and the opportunities’: reflections of a GCU Commonwealth Fellow

Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with our outgoing Commonwealth Fellow Niaz Patwary. He was visiting GCU through the prestigious British Government’s Commonwealth Fellowship scheme and, with his fellowship drawing to an end; I asked him about his experience of life in Glasgow and what his plans were going forward.


You’ve been in Glasgow for 3 months now – how have you enjoyed life here? Is it your first time in the UK?

Hi Kylie, thank you for taking the time to initiate this conversation – that is kind of you. Actually, this is not my first time in the UK. I have taken MBA courses at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester as an exchange student from University of Minnesota (Twin Cities). However, this is the first time that I have lived in Scotland. It was truly exciting for me to be here! GCU offered a lot to me, and I enjoyed my stay at Glasgow very much. It’s the people in Glasgow, especially my colleagues and students that made it a wonderful stay.

What attracted you to GCU?

Well, first of all, entrepreneurship particularly, social entrepreneurship is my primary research interest. The Yunus Centre for Social Business & Microfinance at GCU is one of the top notch programmes in the UK and Europe in this field. Renowned academic researchers like Professor Cam Donaldson and Professor Simon Teasdale are here and I feel fortunate be able to work with them and learn from them. The professional network that I am able to build here is simply brilliant! I met with several key figures within social entrepreneurship including the co-founder of the Big Issue in Scotland, Social Firms Scotland, Social Enterprise Academy as well as many others. And my students will always be part of my fond memory.

So, you taught a few courses here?

I taught two sections of the Global Social Business and Entrepreneurship course and occasionally lectured in a few postgraduate courses. It was a remarkable experience. Teaching at Glasgow was a different experience than my previous teaching experience. Culturally, I found students from Scotland a bit on the shy side; however, if you are able to open them up, they have great insights to share. They were very perceptive and also warm on a human level.

Beyond the lecture theatre, were you involved in any other capacity with the students?

I had the opportunity to be a key advisor to a group of students from the Masters in Social Business & Microfinance course who that participated in the international Hult Prize competition. The competition, the world’s largest student challenge, sees teams from around the world compete for $1 million in seed money to launch their own social enterprise. Our students made it to the Regional Final in London and presented a very interesting project aimed to tackle the issue of Early Childhood Education in Bangladesh.

Besides London, did you get a chance to visit other areas of the UK?

I did! I visited a few noteworthy Social Enterprises in Oban with my colleague Michael Roy and the MSc students from the Social Business and Microfinance programme. It was an eye-opening experience. I visited the UNESCO world heritage site of New Lanark and got to know more about legendary social entrepreneur Robert Owen and had the chance to visit multiple Social Enterprises in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, and Belfast. I also participated in a number of short training courses at GCU and Cambridge University.

Whilst working at GCU I had the opportunity to accompany colleagues to the annual Ashoka U Exchange conference in Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland, USA where GCU was declared as the first Scottish Changemaker Campus. Besides attending a number of extraordinary events, the biggest personal highlight for me has to be meeting Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka. It was truly inspirational to have a meaningful meeting with him and I am motivated to spread the message of Social Entrepreneurship education in my native country.

It sounds like you’ve been exceptionally busy! What does the future hold for you?

I will be starting at University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh as an Assistant Professor and will be predominantly teaching on their Entrepreneurship and Strategy courses. I will also spearhead a few research initiatives at the Center for Enterprise and Society (CES) at the university. I plan to set up a business incubator/social innovation lab over there, based on my takeaways from my conversation with Bill Drayton at Ashoka. Wish me luck!

Many thanks to Niaz for taking the time to speak to us and we wish him luck for his future projects.

For more information on the Commonwealth Scholarship & Fellowship schemes see here and for more information on Niaz or the work he is going on to please see the Centre of Enterprise & Society at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.

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